April 5

The Logic of Hinduism
1) Atman and Brahman:
From Unity to Separation to Unity
• 1) I was a child, now I am an adult, and later I
will be a feeble old person
– But I persist in these changes
• 2) The ordinary personality (“ego”) is not one’s
true Self, Atman,
– which is one with Brahman (the divine)
• 3) Atman/Brahman unifies the seemingly
different individualities or egos of my life
Why does God create?
• Recall: in order to truly experience wealth, one must
experience poverty
• God knows that He/She is God, but wants to
experience divinity
• To experience being God, God must experience what
it is like not to be God
– i.e., being an ordinary human being, i.e., you and
• So, when we discover our true divine nature, this is
God within us experiencing what it is like to be God
Emanation of God
• 1) Brahman expresses itself (emanates) in Atman (the
Souls, higher Selves)
– Compare with God creating the human being in Genesis,
breathing His spirit into separate matter.
– But the outer material world, including the animals, is not
created this way
– In Hinduism there is no separation between Creator and
Creation: Advaita (“not two” in Sanscrit) Vedanta
– 2) Atman loses (forgets) itself and identifies with the
physical being as separate and independent reality
– illusion of the egos, the separated selves (Maya)
• 3) Rediscovery of one’s true Self = return to oneness of
Brahman in the play of life (Lila)
Ordinary Self of Civilization (ego)
• Focus is on sensible world of
– pleasure and pain,
– power and powerlessness,
– pursuing wealth and avoiding poverty
• Seeks rewards outside the present action:
– in the future (including motive to raise oneself in the
caste hierarchy in the next life)
– concerned with negative consequences of the past
(external punishment, internal guilt)
• = World of opposites: Maya (illusion)
True Self (Atman)
• Turn within; find point of permanence in the
impermanent present, the “now”
• The past and future are not; only the present
• Atman (true Self) is one with Brahman, the
universal Spirit, of which one can only say,
• It Is! Being: “Thou art that”
Plato’s argument for immortality
• The human soul can recognize unchangeable truths.
– E.g., The Theorem of Pythagoras.
• We can recognize unchanging Beauty in itself in the
changing beautiful things.
– Diotema’s teaching to Socrates
• The soul must be like what it knows and loves.
• Therefore, the soul must also be unchangeable
• Raise your awareness to the soul level, above
preoccupation with sensory objects (the shadow
Krishna’s Argument for Immortality
• Being is, non-being is not
• Change (a mixture of being and non-being) is
an illusion
• What IS (Being) is Now
• Within the Now there is the illusion of
constant change, but the Now itself does not
• Consciousness of Now = the Soul (Atman)
• Consciousness of change = the Ego
Analogous to watching a movie
• In the movie many things happen, people move
from one place to another
– That’s how it seems when we are caught up in the
– But everything in the movie happens in the same
place, which never moves and changes: on the movie
• Being/Now is like the three dimensional movie
screen in which our lives unfold.
– Being itself, Now, remains the same
– even as time, the movement from past to future,
seems to unfold within it
Hinduism or Daoism?
• Hinduism: only Being is, non-being is not
• Daoism: non-being is real
– (the emptiness between the spokes)
• Which is right?
– Hinduism: the nature of ultimate reality
– Daoism: the nature of the human world
• Full of non-being: we create it
• Hinduism: This is Maya > Lila (the play of life)
2) Meditation:
Path to the Inner Self
The Saint who shuts outside his placid soul
All touch of sense, letting no contact through;
Whose quiet eyes gaze straight from fixed brows,
Whose outward breath and inward breath are drawn
Equal and slow through nostrils still and close;
That one—with organs, heart, and mind constrained,
Bent on deliverance, having put away
Passion, and fear, and rage;--hath, even now,
Obtained deliverance, ever and ever freed.
What does meditation do?
• We normally identify ourselves with our thinking
mind, our desires => Ordinary self, ego.
• Concerned with past and future
• Not being in the present
• We normally don’t control our mind; it controls us.
• We need to set aside the mind to discover our real
being: the experience of being: I AM
You are not your thoughts
• = “You” are not your thoughts, worries, fears
• Stop thinking and just BE
• Become aware of the Self outside of the
thoughts about external changing things, past
and future
• That is really the true You (Atman) that is the
expression of God (Brahman)
How to meditate
Sequestered should he sit,
Steadfastly meditating, solitary,
His thoughts controlled, his passions laid away,
Quit of his belongings. . . .
There, setting hard his mind upon The One,
Restraining heart and senses, silent, calm,
Let him accomplish Yoga [=union], and achieve
Pureness of soul [Atman], holding immovable
Body and neck and head, his gaze absorbed
Upon his nose-end . . .
1. Feel and relax your body completely
2. Close eyes and observe the darkness,
shadows, inner clouds, colors, forms
3. Ignore your thoughts
4. Be aware of your breathing
5. Be aware of your awareness
3) Maya and Lila
• Maya: the illusion of change when you are
caught up in it
– Life is deadly serious: who wins, who loses
• Lila: the illusion of change when you
understand what it is
– You play a hard game of volley ball against
– and then sit around and enjoy conversation
The true Self is an Ocean
What is midnight gloom
To unenlightened souls shines wakeful day
To his clear gaze; what seems as wakeful day
Is known for night, thick night of ignorance,
To his true-seeing eyes. Such is the Saint!
And like the ocean, day-by-day receiving
Floods from all lands, which never overflows . . .
Such is the perfect one! To his soul’s ocean
The world of sense pours streams of witchery . . .
Life as the play of God
• “The basic recurring theme in Hindu
Mythology is the creation of the world by the
self-sacrifice of God - 'sacrifice' in the original
sense of 'making sacred' - whereby God
becomes the world which, in the end becomes
again God. This creative activity of the Divine
is called *lila*, the play of God, and the world
is seen as the stage of the divine play.
Life is magical
• “Like most of Hindu mythology, the myth of
lila has strong magical flavour. Brahman is the
great magician who transforms himself into
the world and he performs this feat with his
'magic creative power', which is the original
meaning of maya in the Rig Veda. The word
maya - one of the most important terms in
Indian philosophy - has changed its meaning
over the centuries.
• “From the 'might', or 'power', of the divine
actor and magician, it came to signify the
psychological state of anybody under the spell
of the magic play. As long as we confuse the
myriad forms of the divine lila with reality,
without perceiving the unity of Brahman
underlying all these forms, we are under the
spell of maya.
• “Maya, therefore, does not mean that the
world is an illusion, as is often wrongly stated.
The illusion merely lies in our point of view, if
we think that the shapes and structures,
things and events, around us are realities of
nature, instead of realizing that they are
concepts of our measuring and categorizing
• “Maya is the illusion of taking these concepts
for reality, of confusing the map with the
• From The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra.
Comparison with Stoicism
• Epictetus: “Remember that you are an actor in
a play, the character of which is determined by
the Playwright; if He wishes the play to be
short, it is short; if long, it is long; if He wishes
you to play the part of a beggar, remember to
act even this role adroitly; and so if your role
be that of a cripple, an official, or a layman.
• For this is your business, to play admirably the
role assigned you; but the selection of that
role is Another’s.” # 17
Hinduism: The Play is Our Own
• Non-separation (Advaita) of God and world
• The Self (Atman) is an expression of Brahman
• The Play of Life (Lila) is our own play
– We create and sustain the non-being
– and so have a human world
• Of Yin and Yang, Non-being and being: Daoism
• Karma: WE determine our role or part in life
Platonic and Hindu conception of Selfdetermined Destiny
• “Your genius will not be allotted to you, but
you choose your genius; and let him who
draws the first lot have the first choice, and
the life which he chooses shall be his destiny.”
(Plato, Republic, Story of Ur, in Book X)
Spiritual republicanism without a
material republic
• Survival of memory of republican freedom
after death of republic
• 1) Roman Stoicism: our outside fate is
determined by God(s)
– >Reflects powerful Roman empire
• 2) Advaita Vedanta: we (as one with Brahman)
determine our outside fate
– >Reflects weak Hindu feudal states
Stoicism and Rome
• >From freedom of republics to loss of freedom
• Stoic separates mind and body: we control the
first, but not the second
• The external, physical reality is immovable,
like the Roman army
• Reflects powerlessness of individual in Roman
Hinduism and India
• Practical reality:
– Republics also decline into feudalism (despotism of local
– Feudal states are weak, limited; you can go from one to
the other and the rules change
– Contrast with the “universal” character of Rome’s
“cosmopolitan law”: there is no escaping it!
• Hindu beliefs:
– The externality, solidity of the body and the power of and
material circumstances are illusions that we create
– We can change these appearances by our intentions and
Indian Stoicism?
That man alone is wise
Who keeps his mastery of himself! If one
Ponders on objects of the sense, there springs
Attraction; from attraction grows desire
Desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds
Recklessness; then the memory—all betrayed—
Lets noble purpose go, and saps the mind,
Till purpose, mind and man are all undone.
Make objects serve us!
But, if one deals with the objects of the sense
Not loving and not hating, making them
Serve his free soul, which remains
Serenely lord,
Lo! Such a man comes to tranquility;
And out of that tranquility shall arise
The end and healing of his earthly pains.
Since the will governed sets the soul at peace.
Republican conception of
• Individual creates his own environment in
Greek and Indian Republics
– Hence Plato’s story of the soldier Er on
reincarnation: we choose our own lot in life.
• Hence Hindu Advaita Vedanta: we determine
our karma
– 1) through our ignorance of our true nature as
divine beings
– 2) or consciously, when we do our duty in the
present moment